Updated: Jun 17, 2019
I consider myself a pretty healthy person. I workout every day, I meditate and eat well. So it might sound out of character that instead of a hot cup of joe every morning, I sip on deliciously decadent large hot chocolate with whipped cream on top.
I had been struggling with anxiety and sleeplessness for what felt like a long time. I put hours and hours at the gym just to help me sleep better at night. This wore on my body and my mind. I turned to coffee to help give me the energy I needed to get through the day caring for my three young children. One medium or large iced in the morning, and often another in the afternoon.
I found myself oddly alert, jittery, cranky, jumpy, blurry. My heart pounded rapidly. I had digestive issues. I started worrying about my mental health — did I have anxiety? Was I an insomniac? Did I have a heart problem? I had always drunk coffee since my early twenties, so I didn’t think it could be the culprit now.
After getting a clean bill of health from my doctor, I started looking at my diet and lifestyle to figure it all out. I started doing a lot more yoga instead of hours of HIIT training. I ate cleaner and cut way back on the caffeine. I learned that although the FDA estimates 80% of U.S. adults drink coffee daily, and it’s considered a healthy choice by many experienced fitness gurus, it can have a lot of terrible side effects, and I was feeling them.
Enter my switch to hot chocolate. I really crave something hot and sweet in the morning and I needed to replace my cream and sugared-up coffee to something I would enjoy. I have an amazing yoga instructor who mentioned that she made the switch from coffee to hot chocolate years ago. I thought there had to be something to that so I tried it myself and I have to say — I will never go back to drinking coffee either.
I didn’t want to put on weight, in fact, I had a few more pounds of baby weight I wanted to lose so I was worried about the sugar and calories. But when I figured how many calories I was actually consuming in my suped up coffee, hot chocolate didn’t seem like that much more of an indulgence — especially when I make it myself at home.
I started feeling much better. I was sleeping better. I was in a better mood all day. Since I was sleeping better, I naturally had more energy. It wasn’t just a hunch, there’s science behind the health benefits of hot chocolate over coffee.
A medium coffee contains about 210mg of caffeine, and the same amount of hot chocolate contains 17.5mg. That’s 12 times the amount of caffeine! I learned that all of the symptoms I was experiencing can be caused by caffeine. Not to mention, if you take in too much caffeine, you will be at risk for withdrawal symptoms — headaches, sleepiness, anxiety, irritability. After three pregnancies of going cold turkey, I had completely lost any tolerance I once had for caffeine and I decided I didn’t want to go back to being addicted to it.
This may be why it affected me so harshly when I went back to drinking coffee but I suspect I had more subtle symptoms of too much caffeine long before this. So, considering that hot chocolate contains only a small amount of caffeine, that alone can make it a healthier option for your morning pick-me-up. But the lower dose of caffeine is just one of the health benefits of hot chocolate.
Cocoa powder contains theobromine and other flavonoids that lower blood pressure and have mood-elevating effects that can keep anxiety at bay. It also contains antioxidants that can prevent cancer. It still has a mildly stimulating effect, but when compared to coffee it has more benefits and fewer negative side effects.
You know why I really think it’s better for me? I really enjoy my little indulgence every day. It’s a little mental and emotional pick me up. Eating in a way that is really restrictive for me does not lead to lasting weight loss or maintenance anyway and as long as I stay within my calorie goals it’s fine — it’s great actually.
So now I enjoy my cup of hot chocolate every morning without feeling an ounce of guilt. I balance my diet throughout the rest of the day and plus — consuming too few calories for too long slows your metabolism. I know it’s good for my well being and I love it. Not only is it healthier, but it’s also way tastier. I call that a win-win.